After gut-punch losses, No. 14 Penn State overcomes slow start to beat Rutgers

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After gut-punch losses, No. 14 Penn State overcomes slow start to beat Rutgers


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Hangovers? That was apparently something for the folks in the Beaver Stadium parking lots to worry about. Penn State coach James Franklin wasn’t interested in discussing whether his team might have been in the throes of one Saturday afternoon, when it started slowly and then slogged to a workmanlike 35-6 homecoming victory over Rutgers (see observations).

Never mind that the 14th-ranked Lions were coming off back-to-back gut-punch losses, at Ohio State and Michigan State. Never mind that the season’s course appears to be set, that there is a certain resignation about what this outfit, now 8-2, might be able to accomplish.

He was more interested in recalibrating everybody’s sights, making them understand there is still much that can be salvaged, even if a return trip to the Big Ten championship game is a long shot, a berth in the College Football Playoff a near impossibility.

“I think,” he began, “we made progress, and we were able to get a fairly convincing win against a program on the rise.”

Well, yeah, kinda. Rutgers came in with three victories in its last four games and overall has won twice as often as it had while going 2-10 last year. Then the Scarlet Knights moved to a 6-0 lead after a quarter, in part because none of the Lions elected to field the opening kickoff, before PSU yawned, stretched and made its appointed rounds.

Trace McSorley threw for two touchdowns and ran for one. Saquon Barkley, limited to a season-low 35 yards on the ground, nonetheless rushed for two TDs of his own. And later he addressed the season’s expectations, as opposed to the grim realities.

“I visualized going undefeated,” he said. “I visualized everything. But you only get to control what you can control.”

And the games in Columbus and East Lansing slipped through their fingers, in large part because they are lacking on both lines — Franklin went so far as to call their offense “too finesse” after the MSU loss — but also because of a blocked punt here, a roughing-the-passer penalty there, and few dozen completions by J.T. Barrett and Brian Lewerke.

Tough to adjust one’s focus after all that. But outwardly, at least, they are being brave in the attempt.

“We’re 8-2 right now,” Barkley said. “We hold ourselves to such a high standard that everyone thinks this is a bad season. There’s multiple teams that would beg and wish and dream to be in the position we are.”

A 10-2 regular-season finish is still possible. So too is a berth in a New Year’s Day bowl. Scant consolation, maybe, since the Lions were No. 2 in the country heading into the Ohio State game, but consolation nonetheless.

“We’re 8-2, top 15 team in the country,” Barkley said again, “and everyone’s like the season’s going to crap, which realistically it’s not. We all wanted to have an undefeated season, but we didn’t. We lost two games. But now that’s all behind us. All you can really focus on is the last three games that we have and (go about) doing what you can do to win those games.”

No surprise, then, that Barkley fended off questions about his immediate and long-term future — that he would say neither whether he planned to declare for the draft (as expected) nor whether he planned to sit out the bowl game, as two NFL-bound backs, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, did a year ago.

That’s a discussion for another time, he said, in both cases. More pressing now is whether the Lions can ever knock anybody off the ball. Barkley, working behind a line minus injured tackle Ryan Bates for the second straight week, found little traction against Rutgers. And over the last three weeks, he has managed 141 yards on 49 carries, while seeing his Heisman chances evaporate.

Time and again Franklin has said his team needs to be more physical — on both sides of the ball, but particularly on offense. And when asked whether any strides had been made in that regard Saturday, he didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsement.

“I think a little bit,” he said, “but I still think that’s an area that we can get better in.”

Barkley’s take on Franklin’s week-old assessment?

“‘Finesse’ means we’re trying to be too flashy and got to grind out the yards and be a little more gritty,” he said. “That’s what I think of when I think ‘finesse.’ ”

He too thought some progress had been made. Baby steps, anyway.

Same for the recalibration process, the resetting of goals. One would think, after all, that the hangover cannot last forever, despite all appearances to the contrary.

No. 14 Penn State vs. Rutgers: Help needed, but still much to play for


No. 14 Penn State vs. Rutgers: Help needed, but still much to play for

No. 14  Penn State looks to snap a two-game losing streak in its homecoming game.

No. 14 Penn State (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) vs. Rutgers (4-5, 3-3 Big Ten)
Beaver Stadium, State College, Pennsylvania
Saturday, noon, Big Ten Network

Scouting Penn State
The Nittany Lions have dropped their last two, to Ohio State and Michigan State, by a total of four points. PSU continues to have problems running the ball (despite the presence of one of the nation’s finest backs, Saquon Barkley) and rushing the passer. Barkley, who has rushed for 864 yards (5.7 a pop), has managed 107 yards on 35 attempts the last two weeks. And the defense has allowed 728 yards through the air over that span, while recording exactly four sacks. Barkley does lead the Big Ten with 14 touchdowns and is second in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (195.7).

Scouting Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights have won three of their last four, including last week’s 31-24 victory over Maryland. Gus Edwards, who leads RU with 630 rushing yards, caught the go-ahead 23-yard touchdown pass from Gio Rescigno with 7:30 left. Edwards ran for 109 of the Knights’ 239 yards in the game. Despite Rutgers’ improvement, the Knights went 2-10 last year — in Chris Ash’s first year as head coach — there is obviously work to be done. They are last in the Big Ten in total offense (294.4) and passing offense (127.0), and next-to-last in rushing defense (179.6).

The Lions lead the all-time series, 25-2, and have won the last 10 meetings. The score last year in snowy Piscataway was 39-0.

Storyline to watch
As always, the focal point is the Lions’ line play. They are again expected to be without offensive tackle Ryan Bates and defensive end Ryan Buchholz, both of whom suffered undisclosed leg injuries two weeks ago against Ohio State.

What’s at stake
PSU can still win the Big Ten East, with help, and if nothing else can qualify for a New Year’s Day bowl.


Penn State 35, Rutgers 7

College hoops wrap: Penn State falls to Rutgers despite furious comeback

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College hoops wrap: Penn State falls to Rutgers despite furious comeback

Villanova headlined Philly college basketball action today with a 92-79 win over St. John's, led by Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo (see full recap).

Here's a snapshot from the rest of area hoops today.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Corey Sanders scored 25 points, with six rebounds, four assists, and three steals to lead Rutgers past Penn State 70-68 on Saturday for the Scarlet Knights' first-ever Big Ten road win.

Rutgers, which has just five wins in the Big Ten since joining in 2014-15, was 0-23 on the road in conference play. The last conference win was in 2014 against South Florida, an American Athletic Conference member.

Shep Garner scored 24 points for Penn State (12-12, 4-7) and made 6 of 9 3-pointers. Garner scored 17 points in the first half with 5 of 6 3-pointers. Tony Carr added 17 points.

Mike Williams had 12 points and Deshawn Freeman scored 15 for Rutgers (13-11, 2-9).

Penn State led once, at 6-5, with 17:52 left in the first half.

Rutgers went up by 13 after Sanders' 3-pointer made it 60-47 at 7:18.

Penn State stormed back, closing to 69-68 with 11 seconds left, but didn't get closer (see full recap).

Delaware steamrolled by UNC Wilmington 
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Chris Flemmings scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds as UNC Wilmington rolled past Delaware 108-80 on Saturday night, ending a two-game skid.

Flemmings was 8 of 11 from the floor including five 3-pointers for the Seahawks (21-4, 10-2 Colonial). Ambrose Mosley added 18 points. Devonte Cacok and Jaylen Fornes had 17 points apiece. The team averaged 69 percent shooting from the floor including 65.6 percent (21 of 32) from long range.

Mosely sank a pair of 3-pointers back-to-back midway through the first half to give the Seahawks a 23-18 edge with 11:25 to play. Fornes, Flemmings and Denzel Ingram combined for five more after that and the Seahawks held a 54-37 advantage at the break. They led the rest of the way.

Eric Carter and Ryan Daily scored 20 points apiece for the Blue Hens (9-16, 2-10) who have lost four of their last five (see full recap).

Penn still winless in Ivy after loss to Dartmouth
HANOVER, N.H. -- Evan Boudreaux had his 10th double-double of the season, Miles Wright hit five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points and Dartmouth beat Pennsylvania 74-69 on Saturday night to snap a six-game skid.

Boudreaux had 18 points and 12 rebounds while Guilien Smith scored 15 with five assists for Dartmouth (4-15, 1-5 Ivy League), which won its first game in 2017.

AJ Brodeur's jumper cut Penn's deficit to 62-60 with 3:37 left but the Quakers (7-11, 0-5) would get no closer. After Wright sandwiched a pair of 3s around another from Jones, Darnell Foreman's bucket made it 68-65, but Boudreaux answered with a jumper and Smith made 4 of 4 free throws in the final 13 seconds to seal it.

Foreman led Penn with 15 points, Jones scored 12 and Ryan Betley 11.

Taylor Johnson's 3-pointer with 2:10 left in the first half sparked a 19-5 run that gave the Big Green a 14-point lead with 11:27 to play. Wright hit two 3s, Boudreaux scored five points -- including a conventional 3-point play -- and Wesley Dickinson had a dunk before a 3-pointer by Smith capped the spurt and made it 54-40 (see full recap).

Drexel falters in final minutes in loss to Hofstra
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Justin Wright-Foreman scored 20 points including the go-ahead 3-pointer late in a 12-0 run that propelled Hofstra past Drexel 79-77 on Saturday night.

Wright-Foreman's 3 gave the Pride (12-13, 4-8 Colonial) a 78-77 lead with 20 seconds left and Kari Jonsson missed a jumper for the Dragons (8-17, 2-10) with 7 seconds left. Eli Pemberton made 1 of 2 free throws to cap the scoring.

Hofstra trailed for the entire second half until its late run and was behind 77-67 on Rodney Williams' dunk with 1:15 left.

Pemberton had a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left, Brian Bernardi hit another 3 and Deron Powers made a pair of free throws with 24 seconds to go.

Powers also finished with 20 points, Pemberton had 16 and Bernardi 10.

Rodney Williams had 26 points and eight rebounds, Kurk Lee scored 19 and Austin Williams 16 for the Dragons (see full recap).